News 12 Jan 18

Croatian War Widows Slate HRT 'Insulting' Comedy Film

Widows of war veterans have condemned Croatia's national broadcaster for showing a comedy film about investigations intp their pensions – although it was moved to a late-night slot.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Scene from the film. Photo: Youtube screenshot

Croatian Radio-Television, HRT, rescheduled a romantic comedy after widows of veterans of Croatia's independence war – officially referred to as "defenders" – protested about the show in front of the headquarters of the public broadcaster on Thursday.

After the premiere of the Ministry of Love was announced for 9pm – the usual time for HRT premieres – it was then moved to the 11:20pm, the adult film time slot.

The protest on in front of HRT building on Thursday was led by the Widows of Croatian Defenders of the Homeland War – the official term for the war.

The women were joined by war veterans themselves, including Josip Klemm, well known for leading a year-and-a-half-long sit-in protest by veterans in front of the War Veterans’ Ministry in Zagreb.

Widows accused HRT and the movie of “defamation of the Homeland War and Croatia” and said moving it to a late-night slot had not been enough.

“Although those responsible on HRT were warned that the comedy Ministry of Love mocks and offends us widows, the children, our killed husbands, the Homeland War and Croatia, they decided to show it tonight,” the group said.

The claimed that War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved had sent a letter to HRT, asking it to pull the film from the schedule.

The ministry told BIRN that it would soon publish a response to the number of inquiries it received on the issue.

Widows and war veterans said the film was problematic because the plot centres on two employees of the Veterans’ Ministry going around Croatia and investigating potential fraud by war widows who receive pensions on behalf of their dead or killed husbands.

Trailer for the film.

A light comedy, it shows the two men investigating whether some of these widows have since remarried, or are living in non-marital unions, which would cause then to lose their pensions.

After the campaign began against the film, HRT first decided not to screen it last week. It then decided to show it on January 4, but then screened something else in the last moment and decided to air it this Thursday.

On Wednesday, representatives of widows and the association Women from the Homeland War criticised the film on the right-wing TV show Bujica, hosted by Velimir Bujanec.

After the protest on Thursday, HRT decided to move the film to a later hour without any explanation.

It is not the first time that war veterans’ and widows’ associations have protest against films and theatre plays.

In 2016, some war veterans’ organisations and individuals protested against Danish-Croatian documentary, 15 Minutes - Massacre in Dvor, which told the story of a war crime committed by unknown units on August 8, 1995, in the town of Dvor, when ten disabled Serb civilians were killed.

Although the film was intended to target the Danish UN troops who stood aside and watched as the civilians were executed, critics in Croatia claimed that it was an attack on Croatia.

They claimed that it was especially problematic that such a film was financed by state funds from the Croatian Audio-Visual Centre, HAVC.

It was a starting point of public disagreement against the head of HAVC at the time, Hrvoje Hribar, with war veterans’ filing criminal charges against him for alleged corruption.

In 2014, the first action film about the 1990s war premiered. Number 55 told a real story of outnumbered Croatian soldiers fighting Serbs in the village of Kusonje in Western Slavonia, hiding in the house with the street number 55.

Although the film won praise and many awards, some war veterans still criticised the fact that the film failed to show soldiers holding the rosaries they had carried in their hands or around their necks.

In 2014, some war veterans also protested against the premiere of a theatre play about Aleksandra Zec, a 12-year-old Croatian Serb girl killed in Zagreb by members of a Croatian reserve police battalion, led by Tomislav Mercep.

In 2013, some war veteran organisations protested against a theatre play Nice, Dead Girls due to a poster ad which showed a figure of the Mother of God touching another women figure over the breasts.

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